What is Ecstasy abuse?
Ecstasy is an illegal, synthetic drug of abuse that usually is consumed in pill, tablet, or capsule form. The drug is somewhat unique amongst the illicit drugs of abuse in that it has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Ecstasy’s stimulant properties will provide a boost of energy and alertness while the hallucinogenic effects will trigger sensations of distorted reality.
Though the drug may be called different names, the chemical 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is what creates the effects of the drug.
It’s easy to see how this drug could be addictive. MDMA causes the brain to produce an overload of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are all known to create feelings of happiness and pleasure, and reduce depression and anxiety. However, once the drug leaves the body, the brain compensates by producing less of these agents, and people often experience depression, anxiety, confusion, sleep problems, and cravings for the drug after coming down, even after the first time trying it. The heavier the abuse, the longer these aftereffects last, though some long-term effects may be due to mixing ecstasy with other substances.
How common is Ecstasy abuse?
Ecstasy abuse is very common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of Ecstasy abuse?
The common symptoms of Ecstasy abuse are:
- Dilated pupils
- Unnatural, long-lasting energy
- Inability to feel, or reduced sense of, pain
- Desire to touch or be touched
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Staying awake for days at a time
Many negative side effects, both short- and long-term, can come about as a result of using ecstasy. In today’s world, few people have access to pure MDMA. Many dealers sell pills that are cut with other ingredients, ranging from cocaine or heroin to caffeine and rat poison. For this reason, the effects of an “ecstasy” pill can be hard to predict.
Negative side effects of ecstasy use can come about while the user is still under the influence or after they have come down from their high. Some of these common side effects also include:
- Impaired judgment
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension
- Blurred vision
- Teeth clenching or grinding
Continued use of ecstasy can confuse the brain’s reward and pleasure centers as well as cause long-term damage to nerves, the brain and other vital organs. These long-term side effects also include:
- Nerve degeneration
- Depression, anxiety and memory loss
- Kidney failure
- Long-lasting brain damage
- Cardiovascular collapse
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you or your loved ones have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes Ecstasy abuse?
Like many mental health disorders, several factors may contribute to development of drug addiction. The main factors are:
- Environmental factors, including your family’s beliefs and attitudes and exposure to a peer group that encourages drug use, seem to play a role in initial drug use.
- Once you’ve started using a drug, the development into addiction may be influenced by inherited (genetic) traits, which may delay or speed up the disease progression.
Physical addiction appears to occur when repeated use of a drug changes the way your brain feels pleasure. The addicting drug causes physical changes to some nerve cells (neurons) in your brain. Neurons use chemicals called neurotransmitters to communicate. These changes can remain long after you stop using the drug.
What increases my risk for Ecstasy abuse?
There are many risk factors for Ecstasy abuse, such as:
- Family history of addiction. Drug addiction is more common in some families and likely involves genetic predisposition. If you have a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling, with alcohol or drug addiction, you’re at greater risk of developing a drug addiction.
- Mental health disorder. If you have a mental health disorder such as depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or post-traumatic stress disorder, you’re more likely to become addicted to drugs. Using drugs can become a way of coping with painful feelings, such as anxiety, depression and loneliness, and can make these problems even worse.
- Peer pressure. Peer pressure is a strong factor in starting to use and misuse drugs, particularly for young people.
- Lack of family involvement. Difficult family situations or lack of a bond with your parents or siblings may increase the risk of addiction, as can a lack of parental supervision.
- Early use. Using drugs at an early age can cause changes in the developing brain and increase the likelihood of progressing to drug addiction.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is Ecstasy abuse diagnosed?
Diagnosing drug addiction (substance use disorder) requires a thorough evaluation and often includes an assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Blood, urine or other lab tests are used to assess drug use, but they’re not a diagnostic test for addiction. However, these tests may be used for monitoring treatment and recovery.
For diagnosis of a substance use disorder, most mental health professionals use criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
How is Ecstasy abuse treated?
Ecstasy is a relatively new drug. Therefore, there isn’t as much information on how abuse and addiction occur or how to best treat dependence, and there are no specific treatments for ecstasy abuse. However, due to the fact that withdrawal symptoms are mostly caused by a deficiency in neurotransmitters like serotonin, drugs that work to increase the amount of these chemicals in the brain can help quite a bit with the detox process. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be used to alleviate the depression, anxiety, and panic attacks that are common with ecstasy withdrawal.
It’s also important to keep in mind how often ecstasy is used alongside other intoxicants. This can complicate the treatment process as it’s possible the individual could be addicted to multiple substances at once. Because of this, it’s even more important to ensure a treatment plan for a person addicted to ecstasy is tailored to that individual’s unique situation.
Other than that, ecstasy addiction treatment protocols typically follow the same formula as with any other addictive substance. Inpatient or outpatient services can be used depending on what works best for the client and should be followed with participation in long-term therapy and addiction support groups. Relapse rates without this continuous treatment are high. It’s also highly recommended that individuals undergo certain lifestyle changes. Continuing to attend raves and spend time at nightclubs is not advised as they are very likely to include access to the drug, creating a high level of temptation.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Ecstasy abuse?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Ecstasy abuse:
- See a licensed therapist or licensed drug and alcohol counselor.
- Seek treatment for other mental health disorders.
- Join a support group.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: August 24, 2018 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019
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